I know Gordon personally, so while enjoying the privilege to write a review about his movie, a step-by-step and informative fly tying DVD called Fundamental Fly Tying, I had to separate my emotions from it. Therefore, this is an honest review about my personal experience while watching Fundamental Fly Tying. Even though I chat to Gordon regularly, I was completely unaware of his DVD project and it came as a very nice surprise.
When I started to watch the video the first thing that struck me was Gordon’s formal and unnatural behaviour in the Pheasant Tail Nymph demonstration. He loosened up somewhat during the Soft Hackle and CDC Emerger ‘chapters’, but for those who know Gordon would agree that he is a lot more spontaneous in real life and loves to play the fool. I missed the ‘Gordon’ I know until the movie got to his Klippies and Kolgans demo…Then he really started showing his true colours, which was nice to see of course.
The movie was certainly full of atmosphere and the music definitely didn’t spoil it, but I must admit that I would’ve enjoyed something a bit more original than guitar background music. The choice of music is ‘old school’ in my opinion and it reminded me of a casting demo by Jim Teeny…But I won’t allow bad memories to spoil this review.
I put emphasis on the verbal presentation of a fly tying demo and the background music, because fly tying can be extremely boring and laborious to do and observe. Most fly tying movies I’ve watched were also extremely boring and my eyelids would get heavier by the minute due to the monotonous tone of the demonstrator. Luckily, this was not the case in Fundamental Fly Tying as Gordon’s voice and quirky comments were upbeat and kept me interested; he also spoke surprisingly fluent, which most people struggle to do in front of a camera. However, it is not advised to watch the full 88 minutes of the movie in one go (although it is tempting to do!); watch the individual chapters and try to tie the flies in between.
In my opinion there were two things lacking in the movie – 1) the use of varnish/glue to strengthen flies (even more), and 2) a back-drop related to fishing while Gordon was tying. The bookshelf in the background made the subject (Gordon) look sophisticated and intelligent, but books about gardening and plants, seriously Gordon? Personally, I use a very thin layer of varnish under wrapped pheasant tail fibres – and/or the Egyptian goose biots in some of Gordon’s flies – as well as on the posts of dry flies before wrapping the hackle; this makes a huge difference when trout teeth damage the fine fibres and it keeps the materials on the hook/post regardless of the copper wire, for instance. Similarly, by gluing the underside of the zonker leather strip 1 cm from where it is tied in with Super Glue further prevents the zonker strip from wrapping in the bend of the hook while casting – the nylon loop doesn’t always do the trick by itself (or calf tail on its own, whatever you use). But those are just personal preferences that I’ve learned to use over the years to make flies stronger and more fishing-friendly. It would have been nice to see some of this in the movie as well.
Apart from enjoying Gordon’s wit that builds during the course of the movie (I really appreciated this personally) I was fascinated with the way he ‘handled’ fine threads with those fat fingers of his – I can assure you that only people with a lot of tying experience can do that, i.e., the whip finish, the pinch-wraps, wrapping tinsel and other material strands with fingers and not a pair of hackle pliers etc. etc. etc. I definitely can’t do those things and make use of tools most of the time. This was impressive.
The name Fundamental Fly Tying is not very original, but it does describe the content of the movie accurately. Gordon really does lay a thorough foundation for amateur fly tiers in this movie. I’ve been tying flies for more than a decade and although I don’t consider myself very experienced, I know what I want in my flies (how to entice strikes and produce good hook-ups etc.) and how to make them durable. Most of the ‘methods’ I use involve my own techniques, some of the methods, like spinning CDC, were tips from friends. However, Gordon gave some very handy tips and shared great ideas for even very experienced tiers in my opinion. The macro-angles in the movie also added value to the detail of his tips and tricks, a great benefit to the learning viewer.
If you consider yourself an expert and at the top end of the learning curve, watch the movie and you will be humbled with something new. I say this because every fly tier has his own tricks and Gordon’s eccentric tricks are certainly very original. Like chewing biots!? That is disgusting Gordon! I do some crazy things but I wouldn’t dare licking the remains of dead animals – who knows where that dead bird’s been? Anyway, that is why each and every person watching this movie will learn something new and it is worth buying – whether you end up using his advice is entirely up to you of course.
Final impression summary:
Name of the DVD: 5/10
Product packaging and ‘look’: 9/10
Fly Tying demonstrations: 10/10
Attention to detail: 10/10
Selection of trout flies: 8/10
Tips and tricks: 9/10
Value to the fly fishing market: 10/10
Readers are welcome to order Fundamental Fly Tying directly from Gordon van der Spuy by email: firstname.lastname@example.org